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Japanese Police Raid Mitsubishi Fuso Headquarters - 2004-05-07

One of Japan's truck makers faces more legal troubles, while the country's top auto manufacturer announces a plan to train more of its overseas assembly line workers in Japan.

Police in Japan on Thursday raided the headquarters of Mitsubishi Motor's truck subsidiary. Later in the day, they arrested seven former executives.

Authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into the company. Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus is suspected of making false reports about defective truck parts after a series of accidents, including one that killed a pedestrian.

A spokesman for Mitsubishi Fuso, Kyoichi Shimada, tells reporters the company recalled the wheel hubs in question two months ago and is taking the investigation seriously.

Mr. Shimada says Mitsubishi Fuso's offices were searched for the third time on Thursday and the company is fully cooperating with authorities.

Among those arrested Thursday were the former chairman of Mitsubishi Fuso and the former managing director of Mitsubishi Motors.

Mitsubishi Fuso was spun off from Mitsubishi Motors early last year, with Daimler Chrysler holding a 65 percent stake. Daimler Chrysler also says it is cooperating in the investigation.

Japan's top automaker, Toyota, says it is forming a training center in Japan for its overseas plant workers. The company now sends many engineers overseas to give technical training to local workers, but it says despite rapid globalization of its operations, Toyota needs to keep more of its skilled engineers at home.

The company says the new system will allow its global workforce to better share advanced production know-how.

Registration of new vehicles in Japan fell for a third straight month in April compared to the same period a year ago. The Japan Automobile Dealers' Association says April sales dropped nearly 4.5 percent on the year.

Vehicle registrations are a measurement of automobile sales and are closely watched here by economists as an indicator of monthly consumer spending.

Japan's overall competitiveness has increased slightly from the previous year. Japan was number one in 1993, but fell as low as 30 place in 2002.

Last year Japan was ranked 25th and this year moved up two spots. The United States is ranked at the top.

The International Institute of Management Development, a leading European business school, issues the annual report.

The Institute says Japan needs to do more to foster entrepreneurs and reform its tax system. It says these are among the steps necessary to improve its economy and move up the competitiveness rankings.